A case against vendor-locking optical modules

Patrick W. Gilmore patrick at ianai.net
Mon Nov 17 23:17:27 UTC 2014

This is an interesting thread, but the actual winning strategy was only tangentially mentioned.

	Q: How do you get a vendor to change?
	A: Everyone stop buying that vendor's gear.

It's a simple business decision. If the profit dollars of the people who stick around with locked optics are greater than the profit dollars of everyone buying without, guess what a vendor will do? (I'm ignoring a ton of second-order effects, such as having enough kit in production to be considered ubiquitous, since most companies can't think that far ahead.)

You like Arista for price, density, etc.? Then factor in the cost (OpEx & CapEx) of vendor-specific optics and see if they still make sense. Don't just look at the per-port cost of the blade. See, it's a simple business decision for you too.

Besides, what's wrong with using something (as Nick mentioned) like FlexOptics programmable optics? Haven't tried it in Arista, but other kit works fine.


> On Nov 17, 2014, at 16:19 , Nick Hilliard <nick at foobar.org> wrote:
> On 17/11/2014 18:11, Jérôme Nicolle wrote:
>> What are other arguments against vendor lock-in ? Is there any argument
>> FOR such locks (please spare me the support issues, if you can't read
>> specs and SNMP, you shouldn't even try networking) ?
> there have been documented cases in the past where transceivers have had
> serious problems working on kit, where those problems have ranged from the
> transceivers simply not working correctly to the network devices crashing
> and rebooting.  The kit vendor gets the blame in all situations, even
> though it's not always their fault.
> Ultimately, transceivers are devices which need device drivers to work
> properly.  I haven't seen any driver code for handling them, but if you
> take a look at any other device driver, you'll probably notice that a good
> chunk of the code is spend dealing with quirks and device-specific
> weirdness.  From talking to vendors, I understand that the situation is
> much the same with optical transceivers.  So there are some technical
> reasons for being cautious about this, particular at the early stage of
> transceiver development.
> Having said that, most vendors use transceiver lock-out for strictly
> commercial purposes and will refuse to enable full functionality on third
> party kit as a matter of policy.  Bear it in mind that for every customer
> who doesn't accept this, the vendor will make 10x as much cash with this
> policy by applying it to enterprise and public sector.
>> Did you ever experience a shift in a vendor's position regarding the use
>> of compatible modules ?
> No, but I've never had the opportunity to wave $100m at a vendor either.
> These days I buy blank transceivers from a reputable third party vendor,
> and recode them in-house as appropriate for whatever kit we need to use
> them in.  This works well for me, but other people will have different
> policies which work well for them.
> Nick

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